The Seasons of Coffee
If you were to walk into your local grocery store today it may be hard to find fresh strawberries or corn, because these particular fruits and vegetables are out of season. Fruits and vegetables have seasonality based on when they are being harvested. During harvest times or immediately following harvest it’s usually easier to locate fresh produce. What if I told you the same could be said for coffee?
Coffee is a seasonal product that has a specific harvest time as well as a shelf life after process. To learn more about coffee seasonality we went to a couple coffee experts: Gabe Dunn of Café Imports and Rusty Angell, Field Correspondent for BUNN.
These gentlemen provide some insight into the seasons of coffee!
What makes coffee in season or out of season?
Rusty: “Coffee’s seasonality is based on harvest time. Harvest times depend upon the region in which the coffee was grown. After harvest it can take several weeks, sometimes months, before the coffee makes its way to the US and is ready to be roasted. Unroasted, green coffee can be stored for approximately one year under normal conditions.”
To see when coffee is being harvested in various regions of the world see the Seasons Chart form Café Imports CLICK HERE
Is there an “off season” for coffee?
Gabe: “I'd like to clarify the difference between "out of season" and "past-crop," as I feel they are often confused. Generally, a coffee is considered in season if it has been harvested within the last 6 months. A coffee is past-crop when it has been a full year since its harvest. Worth noting is that neither automatically mean a coffee is bad.”
If a person doesn't have a seasons chart is there a way to tell if a coffee is "in season" just by looking at it?
Gabe: “Short answer: Not really. Without knowing the respective growing seasons of all coffees by heart, the easiest way to tell if a coffee is out of season/past-crop is by tasting it. As a coffee gets older, it's more likely to exhibit certain characteristics associated with age, such as papery, grassy, stale, etc. As organic plant matter, all coffee is subject to cellulose decay, thus causing these flavors. “
Is there a particular time of the year when coffee is more scare/harder to find?
Gabe: “If you are looking for a very specific coffee, there will always be a time of year that you are less likely to find it. This is usually just before its fresh crop. While November and December are low-season for some coffees, it’s also when we see fresh crops from other countries, such as Ecuador, Brazil, and Burundi.”
How do café’s manage their assortment given the harvest schedule?
Rusty: “Some cafes have seasonal offerings. However the act of blending coffees together (a very common practice that is only recently beginning to decline) was meant to make up for the seasonality of coffee. By blending coffees together you can find in-season beans with similar attributes to create a blend that tastes mostly the same throughout the year.”
What can a person do if they love a particular coffee, but know it is only in season for a short time?
Gabe: “My recommendation is to enjoy your favorite coffee while you can and maintain a diverse palate! Delicious coffee is as abundant as it is fleeting. Even a coffee from a specific producer can change year to year, so it is best to not get overly attached.”
Rusty: “Enjoy it while it lasts! Like any good wine, coffee can vary from year to year as growing conditions fluctuate.”
Gabe Dunn Bio
Six years ago Gabe gave up his in career in competitive speed-walking to work as a barista. He currently works in the Sales department at Cafe Imports where he wears many different hats.
Rusty Angell Bio
Rusty Angell, BUNN Field Correspondent, has a unique job responsibility for BUNN: get out of the office and listen. Well, maybe it is not quite as simple as that, but essentially Rusty lives coffee by talking and working with baristas around the world. Rusty began his career in coffee as a barista in 2006 in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was as a barista that Rusty had his first ‘aha” moment with coffee, with an Ethiopian Harrar. From that moment Rusty’s passion for coffee was ignited. Since 2006, Rusty’s has held numerous different positions in the coffee industry including barista, café manager, and customer service and training specialist for a roaster and today is the BUNN Field correspondent. As Field Correspondent Rusty not only talks and works with baristas around the world, but he serves as a resource for baristas using trifecta, a commercial BUNN machine that unlocks the nuances of coffee by an air infusion single cup process. In addition to his experience, Rusty currently holds Level 1 certification with the Barista Guild of America.